Knowing that the end was near, I tried today to make sense of this semester’s work in what I think was the most effective way. I reread “Bloodchild.” I have heard it echoed across the blog and in the classroom that in order to make sense of what we were doing at any point, there always seemed to be value in recalling “Bloodchild.” So, I began to wonder what it was about Butler’s short story that stood out to me as emblematic of the class.
The opening line, “[m]y last night of childhood began with a visit home,” (3) was one that did not stand out to me upon first reading it. Three months later, I feel as though my last night of ignorance began with reading “Bloodchild.” I do not mean to say that I am enlightened or that I am no longer ignorant. There are plenty of issues that I know not enough about. However, Butler forced me right from the beginning to face my ignorance on areas of gender, race, and relationships. Luckily, though her work pushed me greatly, it also acted as a preserve as I underwent some great pressure throughout the semester. Beyond helping me work through the expected (that is, the rest of her work), Butler’s short story anticipated so much of what would happen to individuals, the class, and the nation this fall. While I could not have expected mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, “Bloodchild” was there, anchoring me while desperately considering the irrationality of gun violence. The inversion of gender role and the risks dealing with partners helped articulate thoughts I had upon entering new relationships this semester.
I also was able to retroactively extract bits from the novels out of “Bloodchild” and discover their origins. I saw need and compulsion at work in Gan’s love for his family as well as the Boyd enclave. I tried to work through cloudy situations of consent (or nonconsent) both when the children are drinking eggs and when Shori was biting Wright. I even faced the problem of consent and a child’s lack in Gan’s early interactions with T’Gatoi and Akin’s kidnapping.
Thus, it makes sense that this text was presented to us first. It is a tool for reflection. A semester later, the imagery is still profound and rather horrific. The story has lost none of its potency and hopefully never will. I need this text in as I begin to grapple with our nation’s trajectory. “Bloodchild” is therefore crucial in looking back and moving forward. In the afterword, Butler referred to “Bloodchild” as an “effort to ease an old fear” (30). Just as she used writing to work through what seems unthinkable, I too will strive to use my reading of it as life preserver as I tread the water ahead.